The house flippers and Wall Street day trippers were at it again. They lined up at the restaurants door.
“Where’s the cook, Margie?” Saul cried. “Lunch starts in 15.”
“He’s not answering chat.” she held up her phone.
“I can’t afford to break in a new fry cook. What are we gonna do.”
“Looks like you get your apron on.”
“It’ll be a disaster,” Saul hid behind the bar. “Our reputation. Remember the recession. Just because I own a restaurant doesn’t mean I can cook.”
“Damn you Saul, everyday I come I here to work, and the rats are in the dumpster, the roaches hang out on the counters without fear. Why should you be any different. It’s your business. You have to do something.”
“I never learned to cook.“
“What kind of malarkey is that?”
“My mama said it was too, how you say, beneath me.”
“What about that homeless guy who’s always out back?”
“We’d definitely be ruined then.”
“Get Alphie to do it.”
“He’s only a suds farmer.”
Margie folded up her apron neatly. “Then that’s it, Saul. Your business is dead, after all these years. What happened to you? Look at all those people at the door. They count on your for their lunches.”
He held his nose and squeezed his eyes.”Bah okay.”
Back in the kitchen.
“Alphie, we are going to do something new today. I need you to cook.”
“Me? I don’t know what to do.” He stopped spraying.
“You watch the cook everyday, just do what they do, move like them.”
“Cooking isn’t just putting food in a pan. It takes talent. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“Look, I’ll turn everything on, and you just start to cook. See the menu is right here where you can see it. Put the ingredients on the plate like it is in the picture. Yeah?”
“Who’s gonna wash dishes?”
“We’ll work something out, right? For now I need you to cook.”
“I don’t know if I can do this.”
“What’s to worry. Here, take the knife, there’s a pan. You cook.”
Alphie hesitated. “Don’t blame me if this goes wrong.”
“Yeah, whatever. Don’t worry I will blame me” Saul said, and pushed through the kitchen doors. “Margie open the doors.”
Minutes later Saul came into the kitchen a stack of orders in hand.
“Order,” Saul pounded the bell. “I said, order in. Don’t stand there, give me three pastrami on rye.”
“It doesn’t look right.”
“Meat, mustard, rye, pickle on the side. What’s so hard?”
“I don’t even know if it tastes alright. I don’t want to make people sick.”
“Well, take a bite. tell me what you think.”
“Come on Alphie, no one will care. You’re the chef.
Alphie took a bite and handed the plate to Saul. Soon the ticket wheel was full of orders, and he ate as he cooked. “Meat ball, meat ball, extra sauce on a crackle roll. Order up.”
“I knew you could do it,” Saul inspected the food. “this is the busiest day we’ve had in a long time. You’re not even in the weeds.”
“It’s working. I can cook, but I’m getting really full.”
“Hey,” Saul put down a ham on sour and pointed to the dish station. “What’s the homeless guy doing here?”
“Washing for food. I call him Dishy.”
“He don’t want no money?“
“No he’s just hungry.”
“He’s not so bad after all. You keep cooking.”
“Saul, I can’t, I’m stuffed.”
“Stuffed? How much did you eat?”
“I took a bite from every plate.”
“You can’t stop, lunch isn’t over.”
“Saul,” Margie called back. “That A-hole food critic you’re always talking about is here.”
“Oh my god, this can’t be happening.” he sank. “The worse thing always happens at the worse time. I’m dead. Were dead. You can’t be full. We are breaking sales numbers.”
Alphie burped. “I need a nap.”
“What am I going to do?” Saul paced the kitchen. “We gotta think of something fast. You need to come up with a special. Something that will knock his socks off.”
“I have an idea.” Dishy said.
“No ideas from you. Wash.”
“Saul, he’s already complaining about the coffee.”
Saul hugged a head of lettuce. “It’s worse than I ever thought.”
Alphie sat down on a pickle bucket. “I can’t do it.”
Saul rubbed his temples.
Dishy ate scraps from a plate.
Saul’s finger shot up in the air. “Alphie, and you homeless guy come over here. I got a plan, but your not going to like it.”
“His name is Dishy.”
“Can I bathe in the mop sink after my shift?”
“No, we got work to do.”
Saul grabbed bottles and boxes off the shelf. “I’m gonna mix this up and your gonna drink it.”
“No way,” Alphie backed away. “what’s that you putting in there?”
“I’ll drink it.”
“Sure thing, but after Alphie.”
“Raw eggs, tobassco, baking soda? that’s like a volcano experiment.”
“See I knew you were a smart kid.”
“Isn’t it gonna hurt?”
“Nah, that’s what the eggs are for. Now drink it down once I mix in the tobassco.”
“Boss. This is a crazy idea.” Dishy said.
“Who you calling crazy, dumpster diver.”
“Ready,” Saul handed the cup over. “now drink!”
Alphie danced and spun, his face turned red.
“Get a bucket.” Saul pushed a towel at Alphie.
“I never seen anyone do that before.” Dishy handed Saul the bucket.
“Careful the deep fryer,” Saul held the bucket. “oil costs. Here, in here.”
Alphie burped and groaned, “I feel even worse.”
“What? You was supposed to puke up all you ate.”
“Puke, remember? That’s why you hired me. I am the only one who can lift the lid on the dumpster with out losing it.”
“Punch him in the stomach.” Dishy’s eyes flared.
Saul patted the air. “We don’t hit around here.”
“I’ll do it.” Dishy slapped his hands together.
“Order in.” Margie rang the kitchen bell.
“Jesus holiest,” Saul read the ticket. “he ordered the whole menu. Now what are we gonna do?”
“We can squeeze it out of him.” Dishy smiled.
Saul spun Alphie around and squeezed. “I’ll try anything.”
“Stop. It’s not working.” Alphie tried to break free.
“It has to. Puke damn you.”
Dishy stuck his finger into a terrine. “What’s this red purple stuff.”
“I’m allergic to beets,” Alphie said. “If you want me to puke use the borscht.”
“Puke, use the borscht. That’s funny.” Dishy said.
Dishy ladled Aphie.
“That’s my hero let it all out,” Saul comforted. “Now cook!”
“What about the critic?” Margie’s peeked out onto the dining room.
“I have an idea,” Saul cracked his knuckles. “if my restaurant is going down it will be by my own hands. Give me a bowl.”
Saul walked to the critics table. “Sir, your soup compliments of the chef.”
TALES FROM THE COOK
WHERE FOLKLORE AND THE CULINARY ARTS MEET